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Dodgers Sign J.P. Howell

The Dodgers have added another lefty to their largely right-handed bullpen picture, signing ex-Ray J.P. Howell to a one year deal.


The Los Angeles Dodgers have signed former Rays reliever J. P Howell to a one year deal worth $2.85M with incentives, reports Buster Olney of ESPN. The lefty threw 50.1 innings for TampaBay last season with a 3.04 ERA. He gives the Dodgers a good lefty option out of the pen at a very reasonable cost.

The 29 year old reliever was an important part of the Rays bullpen during their American League Championship run in 2008 and again in 2009, but shoulder surgery cost him the 2010 season and limited him to just 30 innings in 2011. Since returning, Howell has been unable to recapture the strikeout ability he had in his best seasons, posting a 7.5 K/9 rate last season and 7.6 in 2011, well off his 9.3 and 10.7 peaks in 2008 and 2009.

He has continued to keep batted balls earthbound, however, with a career ground ball percentage of 50.5. Though he has been better against lefties than righties throughout his career, he has consistently pitched to hitters on both sides of the plate and never been relegated entirely to LOOGY work.

He joins a Dodgers bullpen that ranked eighth in the National League in ERA last season. Howell gives Los Angeles another solid lefty to match with Scott Elbert, who posted a 2.20 ERA in 32 innings last year as the Dodgers top lefty. After an aggressive start to the off-season in which the Dodgers added Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu, they have turned their attention to middle relief and bridging the gap to closer Kenley Jansen and flame thrower Brandon League, who are both righties. Howell is good fit for this heavily right-handed bullpen and the $2.85M cost and one year commitment looks thrifty among the current Dodgers contracts.